It is with interest and longing that I read about coaching with Horses. As a kid, I used to ride them, sometimes on the beach as I lived in Scheveningen at the time. I remember vividly how once my horse, startled by a passing motorcycle, bolted and galloped back to the stables without me being able to stop it. I recall its uncontrollable energy and purpose, how vulnerable I was on its heaving back, how utterly powerless and yet thrilled by the sensation of its speed and battering hoofs.
Nowadays I tend to stop at meadows where horses roam and go to the fence to attract their attention. Usually at least one comes to the fence to investigate. They sometimes push their velour noses against my hand, stare at me with wet bulging eyes, while I keep an eye to their ears to sound their temper and to withdraw at the first sign of alarm. They seem wild spirits only just held in check by arteries, bones, skin and fur, mirroring our own moods by their reactions, thus informing us about who we are.
How different sailing yachts are from horses. These quietly sit near kade or pontoon, hesitantly tugging their lines. You can endlessly contemplate their lines and rigging and reflexion in the water without them giving anything back but your own thoughts and questions, a matter of aesthetics for some, of dreams of freedom for others. You can touch them without a tremble or shiver rewarding your curiosity. Until… until you actually set sail on them. Then nature kicks in. Different from saddling and straddling a horse, and yet… Air flows around Earth and sticking in it anything winglike will unleash unlimited power that, reigned in, propels you to any possibility beyond the horizon, if you dare. Immediately a range of decisions has to be made: where to steer, why, what obstacles to brave, how to sail back or perhaps never so? A sailing yacht may not be a living thing, but boy, does it demand the full commitment of your talents and strengths and self-knowledge to harness the natural forces you’ve called forth. Who are you then? How do you react? What core quality remains when all else is literally blown to shreds? And how do you cope with silence and waiting when the wind holds its breath, the sails hang limp and no sensation veils your haste and purpose and drive and modern impatience? How and in which capacity do you communicate with shipmates that deal with circumstances in their own way? What leader are you then, of men and yourself? That and more is what sailing reveals if you dare allow the wind driven experience to permeate not only your senses but your very soul. That is why sailing ships, albeit differently from horses, coach too about who you are… fatally.
Since 1995 I sail Eenhoorn, a fine classic of 30 feet. He crossed the Atlantic with me and taught me many things. I take coachees on board. To have them notice themselves in unfamiliar ways. Those who tried enjoyed.